Date of Issue: 26.04.2011
Forest Growth on the Faroe Islands
Forests - not exactly what one associates with the Faroe Islands - rather the contrary. The North Atlantic archipelago is known for its treeless appearance. Climatic and geographic conditions, human influence and centuries of sheep-breeding have left the islands practically treeless.
Forests of the Past
But it has not always been that way. If we go back to the volcanic period millions of years ago, we note that there have been periods of extensive forest growth. Charred wood residues, and prints from leaves and needles are found in the coal strata in Suðuroy and Mykines. These finds indicate more favorable times on the mini-continent, which the current Faroe then were part of. Cypress, yew and juniper, giant sequoia and various kinds of deciduous trees - it's hard to imagine today.
After the Ice Age and the Settlement
When the Faroes were colonized, there were some natural woods on the islands. The only indigenous conifer was juniper, which is thought to have been quite common back then. Today this wood only appears in its original form, on the island Svínoy, but we have found roots of juniper in the peat layers on other islands as well.
Of deciduous trees were Dwarf Willow, Woolly Willow and Arctic Willow quite widespread, but Woolly Willow and the Arctic Willow are almost extinct because of the extensive sheep farming.
Birch has also grown wildly in the Faroe Islands since the last ice age, but rather dispersed - and disappeared after the colonization.
We also know that hazel has grown in the Faroe Islands around year 1000, but whether it was a native Faroese tree or it was planted by the early settlers, is uncertain. The hazel tree disappeared again around the 13th century when the climate became colder.
There has, through time, probably always been a few trees at farms and in gardens on the Faroes, but not in any large scale. In 1885 there was an attempt to replant trees on a large scale outside Tórshavn, but this failed. In 1903 they tried again and this time it worked. This plantation became what we today call “Viðarlundin” in Tórshavn - a recreational area in a valley, which today is centrally located near Tórshavn City. In 1969 the plantation was expanded and again in 1979, and is now the biggest "forest" in the Faroes. Besides the plantation is also a grove surrounding the former TB sanatorium in Hoydalar, now high school, and on the field called Debesartrøð, where the Provincial Library and the Faroese University is located.
In December 1988 a violent hurricane-ravaged the islands. Wind speeds were up over 60 meters per second and the hurricane caused extensive damage on houses and trees. A very large proportion of the trees in the Plantation in Tórshavn were destroyed in the hurricane winds. The subject of the 10 DKK stamp depicts a cluster of these trees which are still lying on an incline. Extensive work has since been done to restore the plantation, and today it appears as a very beautiful area with young and old trees.
Besides in Tórshavn more plantations were planted in the early 20th century on the surrounding islands. In 1913, for example, the almost equally famous plantation in the small settlement Selatræ was planted, and the following year the plantation in the village Kunoy, which is depicted on the 12 DKK stamp. The plantation in Kunoy was originally larger than it is today, 17,000 square metres were planted - but today only approx. 7,800 square metres are covered by trees, and the grove is thus the smallest plantation in the islands. One oddity of the plantation in Kunoy is that it is planted around a giant rock, which in ancient times probably has fallen from the mountain Urðarfjall above the plantation. The rock, called Eggjarsteinur, can also be seen on the stamp.
There have since been planted several groves around the Faroes. In Vágur and Tvøroyri on Suðuroy - in the villages Miðvágur and Sandavágur on Vágoy - in Mikladalur on Kalsoy - and also the beautiful park, "Uti í Grøv", by the city Klaksvík on Borðoy.Anker Eli Petersen